Don't Miss vol. 34.1 Available Now!


New name, same great contest!

We’re excited to announce that our poetry contest, previously known as the Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize, has been renamed the Marvin Bell Memorial Poetry Prize. This change honors Marvin Bell, who was our beloved Advisory Editor since 2013 until his death in 2020.

As many of you are aware, Bell’s poetic mastery and groundbreaking contributions to the literary world have left a profound impact on the world of contemporary poetry. His personal yet universal poetic style resonated deeply with readers worldwide. Moreover, his dedication to teaching poetry for over four decades, most notably as the Flannery O’Connor Chair of Letters at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, his service as Iowa’s inaugural Poet Laureate, and his tenure at Pacific University’s MFA program are testaments to his impact on the poetry community.

The poetry prize will continue to foster a nurturing and inclusive environment for poets from all walks of life, providing them with a platform to showcase their talent and creativity. By commemorating Bell’s legacy, we hope to inspire a new generation of poets and elevate the power of poetic expression.

We’re honored to have the remarkable Dorianne Laux steer the inaugural competition as the first judge. Many of you will recognize her as a Pulitzer Prize finalist and the author of celebrated poetry collections like Only As The Day Is Long and The Book of Men. Her newest collection, Life on Earth, will be available in January 2024. Additionally, she was a dear friend and colleague of Marvin’s.

For those interested, please find all necessary details regarding submissions, deadlines, and prizes on our website:

Dorianne Laux will judge the 2024 Marvin Bell Memorial Poetry Prize

It is with great appreciation and much excitement that we announce Dorianne Laux as our next poetry contest judge! Laux will select the winner, honorable mention, and finalists for our poetry contest this fall. Submissions will open on October 1, 2023.

Dorianne Laux’s sixth collection,  Only As the Day is Long: New and Selected Poems, was named a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Her fifth collection, The Book of Men, was awarded The Paterson Prize. Her fourth book of poems,  Facts About the Moon,  won The Oregon Book Award and was short-listed for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.  Laux is also the author of Awake; What We Carry, a finalist for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award;  Smoke; as well as a fine small press edition,  The Book of Women.  She is the co-author of the celebrated text  The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry. Her latest collection, Life On Earth, will be released in January of 2024. For more information visit

Spotlight Stories with St. Louis County Library

We are thrilled to partner with the St. Louis County Library to host Spotlight Stories during the St. Louis Storytelling Festival! The 43rd St. Louis Storytelling Festival takes place from October 13th to the 22nd. The festival will take place at various venues throughout St. Louis County and St. Louis City. For more information, click here.

On Monday, October 17th december will co-host a reading for the Festival. Join us at 7 pm at the High Low for Spotlight Stories. Enjoy short readings from Vivian Gibson, Fred Venturini, Michaella A. Thornton, Ron A. Austin, and Jen Logan Meyer. You won’t want to miss these excellent St. Louis storytellers. Doors open at 6:30p; this event is free and open to the public.

2022 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize Winners

december is honored to present audio recordings from our winner and honorable mention for this year’s poetry contest. These poems are featured in Vol. 33.1; to purchase or subscribe click here.

Lisa Cantwell — 2022 Winner, ravel


lately everything seems glazed     i’ve taken 

to cataloguing the days by how many 

words i say out loud to someone other 

than myself    i need a recipe for sugarcoated 

stuck in a rut    should i search for answers 

in today’s horoscopes collage all juicy bits 

call it age of aquarius    looking at the ocean 

through a chain link fence    i can almost 

remember yesterday    but what about 

two days ago    driving south along 

the coast    the pink pacific kicking breezes

supermoon rising in an ombré sky

i forgot about the moon for weeks

maybe that is a good thing    last night 

i cheated on ramen with mail order deep 

dish pizza worth it    this labyrinthine

ravel of hours    are we at the eleventh 

or the twenty fifth    what if this is all there is

virtual survival rise zoom in out again 

and again and tomorrow again

i am losing words before they reach the pen 

John Sibley Williams — 2022 Honorable Mention, Pantoum for What Remains from Minidoka

Pantoum for What Remains from Minidoka

A hand-woven doll palmed tightly so the soldiers wouldn’t notice.

That delicate black tea set you buried under loose floorboards,

still unbroken. The nearness of stars caressed through a rough

aperture in the barracks roof. & all that rain seeping in to wet your dreams.

That delicate black tea set you buried under loose floorboards

like a body. & the body of your uncle, forever bent beneath plow & push. 

The aperture in the barracks roof, where all that rain seeped in to wet your dreams,

opened the sky, some nights, to that old white farmhouse you’d never see again.

Like a body bent beneath plow & push, your future husband out there

emptying the belly of a bomber on his own country for love of this one.

How he opened the sky, some nights, to fire. How they burnt down the old farmhouse 

in your absence. How you cannot stop returning to it, like a lost family name.

Emptying the belly of a bomber on his own country for love of this one.

Still unbroken, the nearness of stars once caressed through the rough aperture 

of light’s absence. How you cannot stop returning to it, this Americanized family name.

& this hand-woven doll at 94 you still palm tightly so none of us will notice.

2022 Jeff Marks Poetry Prize Winners and Finalists

With much excitement, we announce the winners and finalists of our 2022 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize. The poems we received for our contest were exceptional (as always) and our judge Grace Cavalieri picked amazing poems that we are looking forward to sharing with you in our Spring/Summer 2021 issue Vol. 32.1. In the meantime, you can check out the winners and finalists below.


  • ravel by Lisa Cantwell

Honorable Mention

  • Pantoum for What Remains From Minidoka by John Sibley Williams


  • Pupil Paralyzed by P. Hodges Adams
  • Where the Redness Lives by Brenda Beardsley
  • Aubade in a Time of Stillness by Christian J. Collier
  • Damage by Sally Lipton Derringer
  • Spanish Web by Rebecca Foust
  • For Both Father and Frida by Kristina Moriconi
  • In Which I Consider Myself an Old Woman by Barbara Mossberg
  • The Vine by Alicia Rebecca Myers
  • Oral Presentation by Sarah Sousa
  • Papa Explains Why He Didn’t Go to the Vietnam Sit-in the Night They Dragged His Friends to Montgomery County Jail by Ariana Yeatts-Lonske

Thank you to everyone who sent us their work! And a huge thank you to our judge Grace Cavalieri!


2022 Curt Johnson Prose Awards Judges

december is thrilled to announce Laura Dave (Fiction) and Taté Walker (Nonfiction) will judge our 2022 prose awards. We couldn’t be more excited and full of gratitude that these amazing writers will select the winners and finalists for this year’s prose contest. Submissions open March 1 and close on May 1. See our complete guidelines for more information.

Photo Credit: Katherine Eskovitz

Laura Dave is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He told MeEight Hundred Grapes and other novels. Her work has been published in thirty-two countries and The Last Thing He Told Me is soon to be a limited series on Apple+ TV. She resides in California. Click here for more info.

Taté Walker is a Lakota citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and an award-winning Two Spirit storyteller. Their work has appeared in The Nation, Native Peoples magazine, Indian Country Today, ANMLY, and several anthologies, including Fierce: Essays By and About Dauntless Women. Click here for more info.

Grace Cavalieri will Judge the 2022 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize

It is with deep appreciation and much excitement that we announce Grace Cavalieri as our next poetry contest judge! Cavalieri will select the winner, honorable mention, and finalists for our poetry contest this fall. Submissions will open on October 1, 2021.

Grace Cavalieri is the author of 26 books of poetry; the most recent is What the Psychic Said (2020). She has also written 26 plays that have been produced on American stages, including Quilting the Sun, presented at the Smithsonian Institution.

Grace Cavalieri has produced and hosted “The Poet and the Poem” weekly since 1977, first on WPFW-FM and now from the Library of Congress via NPR satellite and Pacifica Radio. 

In 2019, she was appointed the tenth Poet Laureate of Maryland. 

2021 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize Winners

december is honored to present audio recordings from our winner and honorable mention for this year’s poetry contest. These poems are featured in Vol. 32.1; to purchase or subscribe click here.

John Okrent — 2021 Winner, Hold Tight


          for Zach & Laura

It’s like those birds whose name we don’t know

who’ve picked this place in a million pines

in the middle of nowhere in the middle of night

to sit and sing where we can’t see them —


though it isn’t really singing that they do.

What is it? Unearthly tones

from their earthy throats keep time

from pressing down on us too hard —


ghostly metronomes. Of all the lives

I could have picked, I keep on 

picking this one. The stars 

are scattered buttons from a torn-off shirt;


everything is loosened

or removed. Those birds, and no other sound

save Zach and Laura pulling on their cigarettes,

ice ringing in my nightcap, whatever


makes those burrows in the yard.

No sorrow in the birds

but we hear it. Why say hurtful things?

I love my friends and want them near.


Lawn chairs in the dark. 

I remember the benign belligerence of our drunkenness

in Buffalo, where the snow grew old around us

and we were young and lit in the trashcan-tipping night.


Now everything is different.

The night feels fragile as a windpipe.

The whole world dangles

from the roots of the trees. 

Margaret Ray — 2020 Honorable Mention, Disaster A/version / Re/vision



In one version, the evening is hot and I ride

my bike to the grocery for emergency

garlic replenishment, waiting carefully at each stoplight

until my phone buzzes in my pocket


in another, it rains and I take the bus downtown to meet Sarah

and my phone rings on the way home


Sometimes the dog at the corner barks as I pass


Sometimes I miss the bus and call Sarah for a lift


In one version I drive all the way to Fernandina

when I’m just supposed to go to the DMV on 39th,

and it’s on my way home that the call


interrupts my music, this could go on,


          and it is always evening when I answer, always just before


          dark as the phone rings, the word accident


          from the tinny speaker always sharp as cut

          glass, there I am, always


          lifting the phone to my ear [in the fading

          light], [looking


          straight ahead into a small gust of wind]


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